This week we’re going to highlight an often misunderstood exercise – the farmer’s walk. This exercise is a staple in Strongman competition and training, having been an event in the World’s Stongest Man competition for more than 25 years. It can also be used as a great warm-up or added on to the end of a workout as some extra conditioning work.
The farmer’s walk is frequently underestimated – it just seems too easy. Pick up a couple of dumbbells or kettlebells or random heavy objects and walk.
That’s it! You’ve mastered the exercise. So how can something so simple be worthwhile? Consider the muscles that are involved in trying to keep yourself upright when you’re carrying heavy objects in both of your hands. Your core must be active, stable and contracted in order to prevent yourself from crumpling over. The shoulders and scapula must be retracted and tight, working the rhomboids, lats, spinal erectors and traps. The neck muscles that keep your cervical vertebrae straight and in line, such as the sternocleidomastoid, must stay active. Any forward protrusion of the head and neck put much more force on your vertebrae, which is certainly best avoided:
Forearm and grip strength definitely get a workout simply in trying to keep hold of the weight! Your glutes, hamstrings, quads, hips and calves will also certainly feel the effort of trying to take quick steps while being weighed down. When we don’t focus on keeping all of these muscles tight and in the correct position, the tendency when the weight is really heavy is to walk like this:
Instead of this:
How to Perform the Farmer’s Walk:
1) Deadlift the weight up from the ground. Even if this isn’t the main part of the exercise, it is important that we don’t give ourselves a chance to either 1) Throw out our back and/or 2) Develop poor movement patterns for future deadlifting endeavors.
2) Pull your shoulder blades flat against your back and tucked down. This will help keep you upright while performing the movement as well as preventing the weights from drifting forward.
3) Keep your neck tall. Remember we don’t want to add any excess force onto the neck and cervical vertebrae.
4) Walk! Maintain the straight posture throughout the entire exercise.
5) Adjust the difficulty as needed. There are several variables you can change for this exercise: 1) Time / Distance walking, 2) Weight used, 3) Obstacles or Incline of path walked. Try changing just one variable at a time as needed to make the walk challenging.
Variations on the Farmer’s Walk
1) 1-Hand Farmer’s Walk. The same as outlined above, except with the added challenge of only having weight on one side. This will make your core have to work harder to keep your torso balanced and upright. Make sure to do both hands when performing this variation.
2) Walking over hurdles. Add some more challenge by placing small hurdles on the ground that must be stepped over while maintaining proper posture.
3) Waiter’s Walk. Similar to the 1-Hand Farmer’s Walk, except holding the weight straight above your head instead of by your side.
So, give these exercises a chance sometime. As long as you are using an actually challenging weight and walking a good distance, you may find yourself re-evaluating the farmer’s walk!